Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky. Photo: Blanka Weber
by Blanka Weber
The country’s Jewish community is watching the time of pandemic with alarm
Faina Kukliansky is currently managing her life and that of her members from her home office in Vilnius. “This is a time that demands everything from us,” the 65-year-old chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community says.
This is a time when preparations for Passover would be underway normally. The Bagel Shop next to the Community building on Pylimo street is now only open for a few hours and only accepts cards for payment. Cash is forbidden. There are strict rules here, too. Matzo will be distributed to Community members here and should be delivered in the next few days.
“I am happy and proud of the people who are helping now,” Faina Kukliansky said. “If you can’t get to the shop, we’ll home-deliver matzo and also take a look at how we can help those in need.”
It is primarily young people, students, who are taking the initiative and delivering food to the elderly.
Kukliansky and the team from the Community’s Social Center know they have to keep an eye on the elderly now. “Many have no internet, so we try to call these people regularly and ask about them.”
It is primarily the young people, students, who are coming up with initiatives and bring groceries to older people, and now matzo ordered for Passover as well. “But we have to be careful,” Kukliansky said, “so we don’t lose the helpers in the social services. You must stay healthy. We also have a special responsibility to them.”
The peak hasn’t been reached yet, Kukliansky said, taking a deep breath. One sees the heavy burden on the Community chairwoman. There aren’t enough tests in Lithuania, either, and there isn’t sufficient medical equipment. Many Lithuanians fear if the number of infections rises the hospitals won’t be able to handle the flood.
All Community events have been canceled for several weeks. The website is constantly updated and there are contact details for phone and email.
“I am gladdened we are so united now. Whether churches or synagogues, everyone is making an effort to be there for one another,” Kukliansky said. Even the anti-Semitic attacks over recent months are no longer an issue. “At least that’s what I can say today. It might be different tomorrow. At this time, however, we’re not experiencing anything like that.”
One big question must loom now. What should one do next? What happens when people fall into despair after losing their jobs, or can’t go back to their jobs in other countries?
“It won’t be better here in Lithuania, completely the contrary.”
What should one do next? What happens when people fall into despair after losing their jobs, or can’t go back to their jobs in other countries?
One fears greater unemployment. About 3,000 are returning from abroad, people who work and study in other European countries. Many will now be asking themselves anxiously: “What happens after corona?”
Faina Kukliansky couldn’t say exactly how big her community is, and wasn’t sure how many still lived in Lithuania and how many abroad. “There are probably 5,000 people in total throughout Lithuania.” Most Jews live in Lithuanian cities, mainly the city and region around the capital Vilnius.
“What concerns us now is not just how we organize Passover for all these people, but above all the question of how things will go economically in the future. If the situation cannot be ameliorated, Kukliansky fears there could be violence, aggression and high unemployment. The social consequences can’t be foreseen.
The Government is working hard and will provide all information, she says. One can prepare for it as a citizen. “So it’s time to realize we have to help each other, not fight each other.”
There are currently almost 600 confirmed cases and seven deaths from corona virus infection in Lithuania.
Full article in German here.